Oldest Anglican Church in Central America
St. John's Cathedral was built about 1812 in Belize City by slaves carried on European ships. The church took approximately eight years to complete entirely. Today's visitors can still find many original architectural features which remain including intricate stained glass windows, ornate mahogany pews and an antique organ. The "plantation-style" shutters are as practical as they are attractive. To me, the cathedral feels slightly unfinished as it has no campanile but only a relatively short, flat tower though for its day, it must have been quite ornate.
The church is also notable for three main reasons:
1) It was built from red brick brought aboard English sailing ships as ballast. (Maybe you have seen the blue stones used in the construction of the cobblestone streets in Old Town in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which were also ship ballast!)
2) St. John's is the oldest Anglican church in Central America. The 160th Anniversary of the cathedral was celebrated in 1972.
3) Between 1812 and 1824, St. John's was the site of the crowning of 4 Mosquito Kings of the Mosquito Coast. The term "Mosquito" does not refer to the often disease-carrying, flying insect. "Mosquitos" were indigenous indians of the Miskito tribe. The ultimate Mosquito leader was referred to as the "Mosquito King." This particular tribe lived along the coast between Honduras and Nicaragua but during colonization apparently favored the English over the Spanish colonists and hence the coronations are thought to be a short-lived attempt by them to secure English interests in timber extraction in the area.
It seems the cathedral has had some very memorable and important visitors over the years: the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Wales in 1969 (to name but two), who delivered the sermon at the installation of Dean Gareth Lewis on December 15, 1969; and the Archbishop of York in 1958. Royal visitors have included H.R.H. The Princess Royal (now Queen Elizabeth II); H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh (husband of Queen Elizabeth II) and H.R.H. the Princess Margaret (now deceased).
Near the cathedral lies the oldest cemetery in the country, "Yarborough Cemetery," which was built by the British and was dedicated as the resting place for members of the colonial Anglican Church. It was in use from 1787 until 1896 and took its name from the magistrate who owned the land.
Open Daily (6:00 a:m-6:00p:m)
Admission is free.
A Great Ride on the Old Belize River
A boat ride on the Old Belize River is something that many people, especially those interested in wildlife, would love when visiting Belize -- it gives you a different look at this especially beautiful part of the country and the possibility of seeing many types of Belizean wildlife.
I am glad that the boat ride was included as part of our excursion especially as we were here for only one day -- it turned out to be my favorite part of the day!
Our tour guide had, of course, come along, but it was our boat captain who made the trip especially amazing due to his ability to spot wildlife at a distance and point it out for us; he expertly guided the boat in such a way as to give us the best view possible. In that one ride we saw dolphins, a manatee, iguanas, crocs, howler monkeys, bats, and the ingenious, hanging sock-like nests of birds (can't remember the name now) which drooped from the trees along the milky green river. It was fantastic!
Our ride concluded with a spine-tingling mini race with another boat as the river spilled out into the open blue Caribbean Sea. See my tips on out of the way places for additional pictures and details.
NOTE: Since this boat trip on the river was part of a ship excursion, I am not sure what it cost. However, I believe this ship's excursion to the "Baboon Sanctuary", including the lunch and boat ride was only about $50. I imagine a boat ride on the river by itself would be considerably less expensive!! Check for boats or boat rides that can be independently booked from owners on the dock at the Tourism Village.
(Note: my quickly fading/disintegrated photos don't do the river justice, nor was I able to get the photos I would have liked to due to the boat bumping along the river.)Related to:
A Walk Around Town
Located in the centre of Belize City, very close to the Swing Bridge, is the Supreme Court Building. This reinforced concrete structure (a good idea in a hurricane prone area) was completed in 1926 to replace the earlier wooden structure on this site, which had burned down in 1918. The classic British colonial style with a dome-topped clock tower (still the only one in the city) was chosen as the design for the replacement building and a further flourish was provided by the fine filigree metalwork of the stairway and balcony railings.
Directly across from the Supreme Court building is Battlefield Park (second photo), a small green space with lots of concrete benches that is often the site of political speeches and civil gatherings. As you can see, not much was happening after a bit of overnight rain when we were in town!Related to:
National Handicrafts Centre
Not as big as it sounds, but a nice assortment of shops/booths selling Belizean handicrafts/artwork/alcohol/kitchy-tourist-junk. Check out the Pirate Museum for free tastings of local alcohol and preserves (plus some interesting historical info :D). I've heard it only opens when cruise ships come in, though it says otherwise in Lonely Planet (8am-4pm Mon-Sat). I guess we got lucky.
The Blue Hole
What a refreshing way to cool off then to swim in the Blue Hole. It looks muddy but it is clear and of course little fish that is swimming with you.
The St. Herman's Blue Hole National Park (inland Blue Hole) where water on its way from a tributary to the Sibun River, emerges from a collapsed karst sinkhole. The pool, from which the park receives its name, is a beautiful sapphire blue that is about twenty-five feet deep. After a short run through a natural jungle setting, the stream disappears into a large underwater cavern.
Our guide Oscar told us that only once a person tried to check out the cavern and he just never came back.Related to:
- National/State Park
The Baron Bliss Lighthouse is located in the Fort George District and it is dedicated to a British traveller, Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss (1869 –1926), who left upon his death rougly two million U.S. dollars to a trust fund for the benefit of the citizens of Belize – well, the colony of British Honduras as it was then called. The Baron, who happened to be a fake nobleman, is buried in Belize city and on the 9th of March, the day he died, is celebrated as a public holiday and wreaths are placed by his tomb, which is located right at the foot of the lighthouse.
Belize Supreme Court
Like the cathedral, the Belize Supreme Court building with its four clocks is another fine example of Britsh colonial asrchitecture. This is now, however, the very first supreme courthouse building, as it dates back to the 20th century; and not even the second, as this is the third attempt of a courthouse. 1926 was the date of construction.
Things to do
The Cayes and the Belize Reef are a paradise for water sports enthusiasts, offering all the swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, windsurfing and fishing anyone could ever wish for. If that's still not enough, travelers can canoe on the Macal, Mopan and Belize Rivers around San Ignacio and tube through caves along the Chiquibul River. The best hiking trails are in Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Bird-watchers should check out the rivers, swamps and lagoons of the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, midway between Belize City and Orange Walk Town, which attract flocks of migrating birds between November and May.
St John's Cathedral
St John's Cathedral, from the little I saw of Belize City, is a quaint church that dates back to the times it was under British rule - having been built in 1812. It is charming but not opulent, made of bricks outside and with plenty of mahogany (the national tree) inside. It is possibly the most charming building in town.
Right beside it you can find the oldest cemetery all over Belize, Yarborough Cemetery.
This is something I'm so glad I got to experience and do in Belize! Tours are available to take you out of Belize City but I got my tour from the cruise ship. From Belize City, it takes about about an hour and a half worth of driving to get to the jungle where you disembark. Along the way you're treated to some great views of the surrounding countryside and towns (such as Hattieville which I caught a very brief glimpse of). Once you arrive at the site, you are handed a inner tube as well as a guide light for seeing inside the cave. Please DO NOT take your digital camera with you, YOU WILL GET WET! There will be no place to store it, so just bring a waterproof camera. Also BRING some water shoes. It's about a 15 minute walk to the mouth of the cave. The water can get cold. You then explore the caves from your inner tube, you see some ancient Mayan carvings and your guide explains all kinds of stuff relating to this and the cave itself. The cave tubing itself doesn't take long. From there, you drift your way along the water and disembark on the bank. I'm glad I got to do it! :) Definitley give it a go!Related to:
Cave-tubing... You won't forget it..
Floating down the river, on the best rafts they have to offer.. It puts the other companies to shame.. USE Cave-tubing.com.... It's something I've never experienced, in so many ways.. From the walk through the rainforest, to tubing through a pitch black cave.. Your adrenaline pumping.. Not knowing what to expect.. And, then comes the break in the cave wall, with sunshine beaming down on a most exquisite waterfall, surrounded by lush greenery... You can't pass this up.. It's spectacular..Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- Hiking and Walking
The Altun Ha and City Tour
There are many tour guides in Belize City- some are independent and some are controlled by some businessmen and you deal with middle men. Whether middle men or not, it is okay to haggle. Ask around for the cheapest price. The Altun Ha Tour and the Belize City tour are combo (together). Make sure to haggle. We paid $40 dollars each.
The tour is about four hours or more so make sure to consider your time. When you choose this tour, make sure to wear comfortable and wear comfortable shoes. Bring a backpack for your lunch or your snack and drinks. The food in Altun Ha is expensive and there is not a lot of choices there. Make sure to buy your food in Belize City before you head down to Altun Ha.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
- Family Travel
Fort George Lighthouse
On the eastern most point of the Fort George area, this light house serves ships coming into Belize City. At the base is a memorial to Baron Bliss, an English adventurer, who donated much of his fortune to Belize civic projects.Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
- Historical Travel
Sunscreen is a must!
Please think about your skin when coming here and apply a strong sunscreen. I know this tip refers to pretty much anywhere in the Caribbean but for some reason, I always found the heat in Belize City to be a scorching heat. Please don't forget your sunglasses as well. The water's glare can be bothersome.Related to:
- Study Abroad
- Family Travel
Lamanai & the New River Safari
Your adventure begins after a one-hour drive from Belize City to Tower Hill, where you will board a riverboat for a 90-minute cruise of the New River, with its spectacular rainforest, mangroves, orchids and birds. Disembarking at the northern end of the New River Lagoon, you'll enjoy a Belize style lunch. Then begin your 90-minute tour of Lamanai, once the largest Mayan ceremonial site in Meso-America and occupied as early as 1500 B.C. The first stone buildings appeared here between 800 and 600 B.C. Huge masks depicting dead rulers and gods seem to materialize out of the rainforest amid the chatter of birds and the haunting calls of howler monkeys. Your guide will point out the copal and ramon (breadnut) trees, of great importance in ancient times.
Belize City Hotels
PARADISE. A true vacation. Fabulous scenery and beautiful diving. You feel taken care of by the...more
Oceanfront Street, , Belize
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Families
2 Dawson Lane, Burrell Boom Village, Belize City, Belize
Good for: Business
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